Public health unit in Windsor reinstates COVID-19 measures amid surge of cases

WINDSOR, Ont. —  A public health unit in southwestern Ontario is reducing gathering limits, and encouraging work-from-home measures as the region faces a surge of COVID-19 cases.

In a letter of instruction issued Sunday, the acting medical officer of health for the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit says the measures are meant to control the spread of COVID-19, given the “disproportionate burden” of the virus in the Windsor-Essex region.

The public health unit continues to report well over 50 new COVID-19 cases daily, with a recent increase of late. Windsor-Essex has seen 387 cases since the start of December and, on Sunday, recorded a one-day spike of 86 infections. The public health unit in Windsor-Essex also sees a high percentage of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 of the population.

Dr. Shanker Nesathurai says the additional requirements, which go beyond provincial regulations, will take effect on Friday at 12:01 a.m. and remain in place until further notice.

“Given the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on the region of Windsor-Essex … I am issuing these instructions to control the spread of COVID-19,” Nesathurai wrote.

The new measures, which go beyond provincial regulations, take effect on Friday at 12:01 a.m. and will remain in place until further notice, Nesathurai said.

They impose a maximum of 10 people allowed to participate in a social gathering indoors, with exceptions for weddings and funerals, and a maximum of 25 people if the gathering is held outdoors. Businesses and organizations must review workplace safety plans with their employees at least once per month and make adjustments as needed, and enable remote work for employees, where reasonably possible.

A server brings an order to a customer at a restaurant on June 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Meanwhile, restaurants and bars, along with meeting and event spaces, must limit their indoor capacity to 50 per cent to enable physical distancing and post visible signage indicating the number of people permitted based on this limit.

Nesathurai noted that failing to comply with provincial requirements and those identified under the letter of instruction is an offence under the Reopening Ontario Act, for which a person, business or organization may be liable.

The new measures come in the wake of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, along with three local hospitals and local paramedics, warning about strained acute care and hospital capacity issues.

In a joint statement released Friday, the groups said there’s been a recent surge in both COVID-19 patients and other respiratory ailments.

They said patients should expect wait times and treatment for anything other than emergencies to be much longer than usual, and that those who do not have emergencies should seek care elsewhere, such as family doctors and clinics, to help alleviate pressure on the hospitals.

They also said they’re seeing a dramatic increase in young children with severe respiratory issues needing an immediate higher level of care, noting that 11 children with respiratory syncytial virus had to be transferred from the Windsor Regional Hospital to hospitals in either London, Ont., or Detroit.

“We must work to preserve capacity in our healthcare system for patients. Our local partners will continue to collaborate to ensure our regional system is able to handle an influx of patients that will challenge our capacity to ensure timely access to care,” the groups said in the statement.

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